By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
A Maryland priest has come under fire after kicking a family out of his parish just minutes before a funeral Mass last week after he became enraged when one attendee knocked over and damaged a chalice.
In video footage that was captured by cell phone, Father Michael Briese, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Newport, Maryland, can be seen yelling at attendees and directing them to leave the church.
In a chaotic scene, family members are seen arguing with the priest and then soon thereafter abandoning the premises with the casket of 54-year old Agnes Hicks.
The Archdiocese of Washington has issued a formal apology and noted that the matter is under open investigation.
“What occurred at St. Mary’s Parish this morning does not reflect the Catholic Church’s fundamental calling to respect and uplift the God-given dignity of every person nor does that incident represent the pastoral approach the priests of the Archdiocese of Washington commit to undertake every day in their ministry,” said part of the letter that was issued following the incident.
Following the arrival of police to the scene, the family was escorted to another location for the funeral Mass, which was performed by another priest.
In an interview with Fox 5, Shanice Chisely, the daughter of Hicks, said Father Briese took to the microphone and told attendees “’there will be no funeral, there will be no Mass, no repast, everyone get the hell out of my church.’”
“He disrespected our family, he disrespected my mother. He called my mother ‘a thing.’ He said, ‘Get this thing out of my church! Everyone get the hell out of my church!’ It was very sad. I’ve never seen anything like that before,” she continued.
Father Briese has since issued a public apology to the family where he said “anger was the most inappropriate response,” to the chalice being knocked over after one attendee knocked it over after hugging another mourner.
“Two minutes can change a life,” wrote Father Briese. “In an emergency medical situation, two minutes can save a life. But can two minutes erase a quarter-century of a person’s life and commitment to serving and caring for his community and those entrusted to his care? I hope not.”